Nov. 22, 2012
Last week, Peru became the latest state to introduce a ban on genetically modified foods, as a new law prohibiting use or cultivation of transgenic crops came into effect. The new legislation follows the introduction of a law treating the environment as a legal person, which also prohibits cultivation of GM seeds, introduced last month in neighbouring Bolivia.
The Peruvian law, a ten year moratorium on GM crops, passed in summer last year, proceeding through parliament in a voting landslide. The proposal was first approved in June 2011 with 56 votes for, zero against and two abstentions. Members of congress from across the political spectrum agreed on the moratorium, which they said was a necessary "defence of [Peru's] national biodiversity due to our greater climatic diversity."
The law will be rigorously enforced, officials have said; the country's Environment Ministry has created a new body to police the unauthorised use of GM crops and heavy fines will be metered out on those violating the ban.
The legislation follows a localised ban intended to protect the culturally significant and genetically diverse range of potatoes grown in Peru's Cusco region, in the Andes Mountains. In 2007, regional government in Cusco, the former heart of the Incan Empire, passed regulations forbidding the cultivation, transportation and sale of GM crops in the area.
The government said the anti-GM legislation is a direct response to calls by farmers, and the move has widespread support from the public and politicians. An attempt to introduce a law which would have been lenient on GM production, and which exporters had hoped would boost the country's biofuel sector, caused a huge backlash which rocket the outgoing government in 2011.
Peru's diverse local crop varieties and a burgeoning organic sector have been a boon to those seeking to ban GM in the country. However, despite the new law’s popular appeal, not everyone in Peru is satisfied. Ernesto Bustamante, former Dean of the College of Biologists of Peru, said on Monday (19th November), that the ban could put Peru's farmers at a competitive disadvantage and discourage potential investors.
Furthermore, consumers' organisations have said that many foodstuffs sold in Peru contain GM ingredients and labelling is patchy and opponents of the ban have said transgenic maize is freely available in Peru's markets for use in livestock feed.
Nevertheless, Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar Vidal said the move represents a clear commitment on the part of the government to protecting Peru's food sovereignty and biodiversity. He said in a statement that the new law "confirms the government’s dedication to biodiversity, native crops and farmers."
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